The Daily Flash -Sci, Space, Tech (12/14)


First four exoplanet systems imaged

Among one of the first exoplanet systems imaged was HR 8799. In 2008, a team led by Christian Marois at the Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics in Canada, took a picture of the system directly imaging three giant planets. The team revisited the system in 2009 – 2010 with the Keck II telescope and discovered a fourth planet in the system. The new planet, designated HR 8799e, orbits at a distance of 14.5 AU, making it the innermost planet in the system. The other planets all orbit at distances of >25 AU. The images were taken in the near infrared where they are most noticeable because the system is relatively young (<100 Myr) and the planets are still radiating large amounts of heat from their formation. The youth of these planets is part of what makes them an interesting target for astronomers. There exists a controversy in the community of planetary astronomers on the formation method of large planets. One theory states that planets form from a single, monolithic collapse that creates the entire planet’s mass at one time. Another possibility is that the initial collapse forms small cores early on, but then there is substantial growth later, as the planetesimal sweeps up additional material.

Sei whale Scientists use Flickr to discover whale's record-breaking 6,000 mile migration

You may be looking at cute animal pictures on Flickr and YouTube for fun, but biologists are increasingly using those images for research into animal behavior. Case in point: Biologists used tourist pictures to track one humpback whale's epic migration. One way that biologists identify individual humpbacks is via the unique markings on their tails – these are effectively the thumbprints of the humpback world. Whale watchers and citizen biologists can easily help with this identification process too. As MAKE magazine reports today, Maine citizen scientist Gale McCullough makes a habit of checking over tourist photos of whales on Flickr to see if she can identify them by their tails.

Atacama_desert_pool1 Was there a second genesis on Earth, and is it living among us undetected?

If life started more than once on Earth, we could be virtually certain that the universe is teeming with it. Unless there is something very peculiar about our planet, it is inconceivable that life would have begun twice on one Earth-like planet but hardly ever on all the rest. Until recently, biologists assumed that all life on Earth is of the same origin, with every organism that ever lived descended from a common genesis. But how do we know that is so? Could there be two or more different sorts of life on this planet? Has anybody actually looked?

BeringSea_S2002135_lrg Bering Sea was ice-free and full of life during last warm period

Deep sediment cores retrieved from the Bering Sea floor indicate that the region was ice-free all year and biological productivity was high during the last major warm period in Earth's climate history. Christina Ravelo, professor of ocean sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz and co-chief scientist Kozo Takahashi of Kyushu University, Japan, led a nine-week expedition of the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) to the Bering Sea last summer aboard the research vessel JOIDES Resolution. The researchers drilled down 700 meters through rock and sludge to retrieve sediments deposited during the Pliocene Warm Period, 3.5 to 4.5 million years ago.  Samples from the expedition showed evidence of consistently high biological productivity in the Bering Sea throughout the past five million years. The sediments contain fossils of plankton, such as diatoms, that suggest a robust ecology of organisms persisting from the start of the Pliocene Warm Period to the present. In addition, samples from the Pliocene Warm Period include deep-water organisms that require more oxygenated conditions than exist today.

Tandem4-300-400 'Fountain of Youth' pill could restore aging immune system

UCSF researchers have identified an existing medication that restores key elements of the immune system that, when out of balance, lead to a steady decline in immunity and health as people age.
The team found that extremely low doses of the drug lenalidomide can stimulate the body's immune-cell protein factories, which decrease production during aging, and rebalance the levels of several key cytokines – immune proteins that either attack viruses and bacteria or cause inflammation that leads to an overall decline in health.

Timferriss-nyt Tim Ferriss: How To Turn Your Body Into A Startup (VIDEO)

Tim Ferriss is one of the world’s leading transcenders of limitations. Best known as the author of the 2007 monstrously successful self-help guide The 4-Hour Workweek, a #1 New York Times and #1 Wall Street Journal bestseller that has accumulated over 1000 reviews on Amazon, the Princeton-educated and globe-trotting Ferriss is also a legendary bodybuilder, life hacker and re-inventor of the physical self. According to Ferriss, modern man is driven by two great fears: too much email and getting fat.


Stone_brain-sfSpan-v2 Are devices like iPhones and BlackBerrys becoming extensions of our thinking selves?

Is it possible that, sometimes at least, some of the activity that enables us to be the thinking, knowing, agents that we are occurs outside the brain? The iPhones, BlackBerrys, laptops and organizers transform and extend the reach of bare biological processing in many ways. These blobs of less-celebrated activity may sometimes be best seen as bio-external elements in an extended cognitive process: one that now criss-crosses the conventional boundaries of skin and skull.


"The Galaxy" in Your Inbox, Free, Daily